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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was lumber.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Independent MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply February 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate on missile defence for the second time this week. I am reminded of the old statement: it seems like déjà vu all over again. It was just two days ago that we had this debate, but I recognize the Bloc's right to put this important topic to the House once again.

As for the Bloc member who just spoke, I do not know if he is being disingenuous. I recognize that English is probably not his first language, but my colleague from the Conservative Party took up this point and I would like to pursue it briefly.

A pacifist, as I think the term is commonly understood, is someone who will not resort to the use of physical violence, even in self-defence. Perhaps the most famous example one could think of is Mahatma Gandhi.

If my colleague opposite was serious, and I assume he was--I listened to his comments--he surely cannot mean that Canada is now or ever has been a pacifist country under that understanding of the word.

My colleague from the Conservative Party, the defence critic, spoke very well and very eloquently in pointing out that Canada lost thousands of lives in the first world war, the second world war and the Korean war specifically because we are not a pacifist country. The defence minister is exactly correct in saying that. Any student of Canadian history knows that Canada, when pushed to the wall, as a matter of last resort has used and will continue to use military intervention to defend our own national self-interest or to come to the defence of other helpless people.

We have a proud military history in this country. I would recommend, with all due respect to the hon. member opposite who made those comments, that he perhaps may want to talk to the family of General Georges Vanier or he may want to consult with the very famous military group from his province, the Van Doos.

We are not a pacifist country. It just boggles my mind to hear the Minister of National Defence attacked for pointing out our proud military history. The member also attacked the defence minister for being a hawk, for being somebody who is anxious to go to war. That could not be further from the truth.

With all due respect, let me say this to my hon. colleague. I am sure that the Bloc defence critic, for whom I have great respect, will well recognize that it has been a long time since a backbench member of Parliament was appointed Minister of National Defence and will recognize that no member is more capable and more prepared to take up the job than my hon. colleague, the Minister of National Defence. He is not a hawk, but he understands the basic lesson of history, which is all too often forgotten.

That lesson, of course, is that if a country or a nation really wants peace, then it had better be prepared, as a last resort and if necessary, to go to war. When that lesson has not been followed, we have had the most calamitous violence and wars we have ever experienced throughout our history as a global people.

I just think the member was inaccurate and frankly far too harsh on the Minister of National Defence. There is no one in this country who is anxious to go to war, but we must, as a sensible people, be prepared to defend ourselves if necessary. That is what this discussion is all about.

After all, we are looking at the possibility of joining our Norad partner, the United States of America, in a defensive missile system for North America. We are in negotiations to get the facts from the United States to see whether or not it is in Canada's self-interest as a country to go into this defensive ballistic missile defence system.

As for making a decision of that import, this motion says we should just say no right now. With all due respect to the Bloc motion, how can we take a decision on something of such national importance as the defence of this country and this continent without having more facts? We have to at least participate in the negotiations to get all the facts we can from the United States. That is what we are engaged in.

Then and only then, and after full debate--and this is the second one this week in the House--and after further debate and consultation with the Canadian people, when the government feels the time is right, it will take a decision on whether to participate or not participate.

Based on what I know I would think we are probably likely to participate, but that decision has not been made. It is certainly wrong to preclude making the decision at the right time by throwing up our hands now and saying, “We just say no, we do not want the facts”. Let me tell members why that would be so dangerous and so wrong.

I had the honour to be recently elected chair of the defence committee and I am looking forward to taking up that assignment again. I had that assignment in 1999 and 2000. The defence committee held an extensive set of hearings on the question of national missile defence. In the course of that, we heard from many witnesses right across the spectrum. What became very clear in the course of those hearings was this simple fact. The United States of America has irrevocably made a decision that it will create a system of national missile defence, with Canada's participation or without Canada's participation.

I would submit that this leaves two possibilities for Canada. Either we agree to participate with the United States or we do not. This is our defence partner, as it has been since the second world war. This is the country that we have a defence organization with, a bilateral treaty--

Petitions February 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am in receipt of some 25,000 signatures from Londoners and people of the district of London, Ontario. I present the latest 2,000 such signatures that have been vetted by the appropriate process.

These petitioners call on the Government of Canada to do everything possible to uphold the traditional definition of marriage of the union between one man and one woman which has existed since day one of this country when Confederation occurred in 1867.

The petitioners note that the government has shown inconsistency over the past year or so in its defence of marriage. It calls on the Government of Canada to buck up, be consistent, and defend this most fundamental and important of Canadian institutions.

Constitution Act, 2004 February 19th, 2004

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-486, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867.

Mr. Speaker, this private member's bill seeks to cap the size of the House of Commons at what it will become after the next election, which is 308 seats.

We do not need to be much of a mathematician to do the mathematics and realize that given our population, if we had the population of the United States, we would have some 3,000 members of Parliament. That would be patently ridiculous of course.

The bill proposes to accommodate any future increase in population which will surely come, as we hope, and accommodate it within the cap of 308. Obviously, by law there has to be future redistributions. They would take place on course, but there would be a changing of the distribution of seats within the cap as per the new demographics of our country.

We are one of the most over-governed countries in the world at all three levels of government, quite frankly, and this bill, if passed, would help address the over-government we have experienced at the federal level.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Madam Chair, let me reiterate for my colleague that in June of 2000, as everyone will recall, we were moving to a rather important event called a federal election. The Alliance Party at that time was categorical that we should have already announced, definitively, our full participation with the United States in this ballistic missile defence system. That was the position of his party at that time. That was not the position of my party or the Government of Canada at that time.

The position of the Liberal Party was that this was something that was very important, that we ought to engage in negotiations with the United States and that we ought to see what the pros and cons of potential Canadian participation would be. The two positions were quite different.

We have not adopted the position of the former Alliance Party because if we had done that, we would have announced it three or four years ago. The fact is that we are in intensive negotiations to weigh the pros and cons of whether Canada will make a decision to participate.

I do not know where my colleague comes up with the eight year figure. This system was announced by President Clinton. It was in its infancy in 1998 or 1999. This is not a series of negotiations that has been going on for eight years. Maybe he and I could talk later and I could find out where he gets this misconception.

As one individual Canadian and one individual member of Parliament I believe that we ought to move toward participation in this missile defence system with the United States. After all, we are a full partner in Norad.

Where he and I differ is that I want all the facts in front of me. I want to have, as the Prime Minister has said, a fulsome debate in the House and in the country. I want to involve Canadians before I simply salute and tell the Americans that we will come on board. We need a national debate and the debate tonight is part of that national debate. That is a major point of difference between his party and mine, with all due respect.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Madam Chair, I am not interested in being terribly partisan on this issue and I did not intend to attack anybody. However I did take umbrage and I will repeat the umbrage. When that member, the one the member mentioned, spoke earlier this evening he said that we had somehow come on board with the former Alliance position. That is patently wrong.

With all due respect, neither the member who just spoke nor the Conservative member who gave the speech were part of the SCONDVA hearings that I referenced earlier in 1999 and 2000. At that time the Alliance Party was clearly on record as saying that we should announce our full participation with the United States in BMD. That is not even yet the position of the government. The Prime Minister has not said that nor have any of the relevant ministers.

What we have said is that we want to continue to move further into negotiations with the United States to look at what our possible participation might be and to see if it is in the national self-interest of Canadians.

With all due respect to my colleague, that is quite different than saying we must definitely go ahead and participate in this missile defence system.

We have not come on board to the member's position. In fact, the Alliance Party's position, with all due respect, in my view, was premature. I understood where they were coming from but it was premature.

To this point the Government of Canada is not yet up to that position. We may well move in that direction and I may well feel that we should move in that direction but that is the purpose of the negotiations: to see if that is the decision the government will take in the self-interest of Canadians.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Madam Chair, I guess one of the regrets I have is that very few members of the House, on either side quite frankly, have taken the opportunity to look at the report the committee submitted in June 2000 and which I had the honour to table in the House.

The committee was not unanimous because the Alliance Party, as I said, even before the hearings were held and even before the Americans were asking anything of us, said that we should just salute and definitely join this missile system.

To answer my colleague, the report was, what I would term, a summative report. It was a report to cabinet and to the Parliament of Canada. It summarized all the evidence that we had, both pro and con, but did not recommend that we participate or not participate. I just wanted to clarify that for my colleague. The report did say that further discussion was warranted by the Government of Canada. That is the track we are on tonight.

What the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence are saying is that further negotiations and discussions on such an important system are required. Surely that is warranted between Canada and our bilateral defence partner, the United States of America.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to join the debate this evening on this important topic of ballistic missile defence.

Listening tonight, one would think that certain members think that this is somehow an off-the-wall idea that has come out of left field, that has come out of nowhere. In fact, this debate and the idea of continuing to participate in the defence of North America is a continuation of the defence policy of this country for the past 60 years.

It seems that some members are completely ignorant of history and the fact that during the second world war, Canada and the United States became defence partners in the defence of North America. We formalized that defence partnership in 1957 with the Norad treaty, which continues in force to this day.

In my view, it is in our national self-interest to participate in these negotiations with the United States to ascertain as fully as possible the facts about what the United States proposes in this missile defence system and what part Canada possibly might want to play if it takes a decision to participate.

I am glad that the Conservative member opposite who just spoke is still in the House. I want to recall for him that in 1999 and 2000 the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, which I was pleased to chair at that time, held an extensive set of hearings on the issue of national missile defence. The facts will show that the Alliance Party of the day was calling for Canadian participation in this system before the hearings were even held, or before the Americans even asked. So let me set the record straight on exactly what the positions of our two parties have been over the past two years.

I would like to address certain statements that I have heard tonight and relate back to those hearings of the SCONDVA in 1999. In fact, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs will recall that we held one or two joint sessions with the foreign affairs committee, which he chaired at that time.

The member for Halifax has earlier cited that there were certain witnesses who wanted to come before the foreign affairs committee and present evidence. I can tell the House that we had dozens of witnesses appear before the SCONDVA in 1999 and 2000, and none were turned away. No input was turned away. There was every opportunity for any interested group or Canadians to give evidence and express their views on this important issue.

I was a bit dismayed to hear the member for Halifax cite former foreign affairs minister Axworthy as someone who is now a critic of the system. I can tell the House that I was pretty dismayed at that time, as the chair of the national defence committee, to have the then minister of foreign affairs try to discourage us from even holding the hearings at all. Now he is calling for full and open debate and discussion.

Well, that is fine, but that opinion is some three and a half years late because at the time we held these hearings, we had discouragement from the then minister of foreign affairs. With the support of the then defence minister, my colleague from Toronto, the defence committee went ahead and rendered a good service in holding those hearings.

The issue of cost has arisen this evening a number of times. Different numbers have been bandied about. What was very clear in the hearings that we held was that Canada would not be asked for a significant financial contribution. In fact, according to the Canadian and American military personnel, the most likely contribution Canada would make is what would be called an asymmetrical contribution at Cheyenne Mountain. We would contribute more people and more effort in the other responsibilities and duties of Norad, thus freeing up American personnel to proceed with the lion's share of the work in the national missile defence system.

The issue of this not being star wars has been raised and the Minister of National Defence has addressed it. Let me briefly reiterate that because I am concerned. I accept that there is a valid debate but I do not accept a blatant distortion by anyone, a member of the House or any other Canadian, who insists that this is a Reagan style star wars, when in fact it is not.

The Prime Minister of Canada, the current Prime Minister and the current Minister of National Defence have been definitive in saying that Canada remains opposed to the weaponization of space.

If we were to agree to participate in a ballistic missile defence system and if, at a future date, that took a turn toward the weaponization of space, Canada could simply refuse to participate, just as we can opt out of Norad on a regular basis right now, as we have had the right to do for a number of years.

It has been stressed that this was an initiative of the Bush Republican administration. That is simply not true. At the time that we were holding these hearings I would recall for members of Parliament and other Canadians that the president of the United States was Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Therefore to think that this is somehow a right wing idea from one party in the United States is factually incorrect. It does no good to perpetuate that falsehood.

The United States is clearly determined to proceed on this course of a ballistic missile defence system. Witness after witness at our committee, from ploughshares right through to American and Canadian generals, were asked: Given a choice of unilateral American action to proceed on a national missile defence system or having that system headquartered at Norad with Canadian participation, what would be your preferred option even if you were totally opposed to the idea?

Not a single witness expressed that it was preferable to have unilateral American action. In other words, as the Minister of National Defence has said and as the Prime Minister has reiterated repeatedly, it serves the national self-interest of Canada and Canadians to be a part of these negotiations, to know what is going on, to have a full and vigorous debate in the country and in Parliament and then to make a decision whether it would be in the best interests of Canada to participate in this national missile defence system or BMD.

The idea has been propounded that such a missile system will not protect North America, that somehow a suitcase bomb is a more likely threat. That may well be. There is a plethora of threats out there. That is the point. It would be irresponsible for Canadian parliamentarians or American politicians not to at least consider actions that could be taken which might possibly deal with one of a number of potential threats, one of those certainly being ballistic missiles. One has only to consider the actions of North Korea to know that is seriously a potential threat.

We had the argument at committee that this will start an arm's race and that it will create a much more dangerous world. I think all of us were very concerned about that possibility and we listened intently to the expert advice.

Quite frankly, there is a preponderance of evidence that shows that in fact this will not result in an arm's race, that one could very seriously argue that this defensive missile system will in fact create a safer world.

One of the objectors at that time was Russia. It had major objections. Predictions by Russian experts at that committee were to the effect that the Russian objections would disappear over time. Guess what? The Russian objections have disappeared over time. Most of the expert advice that we heard three and a half years ago has come to pass today.

The argument has been made that we are going into this defence system or we are considering going into this defence system simply to mend fences with the United States. That is just silly. I do not know what other way to put it.

This country and any government serving this country will operate as independently as possible, given that we are in a defence partnership with the United States and Norad. It will make the decisions that it views best for the Canadian people and in the interest of world peace.

One need only recall our decision not to go into Iraq to understand that we do not necessarily follow the United States in every decision it makes in a military sense or in any other sense.

We had the argument presented at committee that the system could never possibly work, that it was just crazy, that it was goofy. Experts told us that given time and an investment of dollars, the system would be made to work. The latest information I have is that more and more of the tests of the system are proving successful. I think it would be incredibly naive not to understand, given the world of technology we live in now, that there is every possibility that the system can be made to work.

The fact is--

Middle East February 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that Israel is within its rights to construct a security barrier on its own territory. However, the Sharon government is constructing the provocative security wall on territories occupied by Israel in direct and deliberate contravention of international law.

Again today, I join my voice to that chorus of voices, including many Israeli citizens and security experts, who are demanding that the Sharon government stop its unilateral and counter-productive action.

This wall denies basic human rights to the Palestinian people and further reduces the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the status of concentration camps. The deplorable impact on the daily lives of Palestinians is unconscionable. The Government of Canada must not just speak against this atrocity, it must take concrete action to impress on the Sharon government our grave concerns.

It is neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic to criticize the inflammatory actions of the Sharon government. Like most Canadians, my hope is that Israel and its Arab neighbours will agree to coexist peacefully and build bridges of justice, not walls of desperation.

Petitions February 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am in receipt of a petition from some 25,000 Londoners and people in the district of London, Ontario. I present now the latest approved 1,500 signatures to Parliament, calling upon the Parliament of Canada to uphold the traditional definition of marriage and to take all necessary steps to defend the institution of marriage as it has been constituted since Confederation of this country.

Foreign Affairs February 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Canada has strongly criticized the illegal and inflammatory wall built by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. This provocative incursion beyond the 1967 borders makes the Palestinian people prisoners in their own towns.

To date Canada has taken no effective legal or political action in this matter. It is time for action, not just words. What specific action is Canada prepared to take to persuade Israel to tear down this illegal and inflammatory wall?